After winning back to back weekly challenges and seeking out some advice of the community, I decided on picking up an expensive, heavy game because...why not? It's not like I would ever splurge on a $100+ game on my own (let's ignore the fact I bought #Food Chain Magnate not long before these wins..).
@nealkfrank had requested my impressions once I had a chance to play, so here goes nothing! It's worth noting the game arrived Sunday and I've only gotten a chance to play once after work yesterday at 2 players.
Immediately after opening the shipping container my first thought was: "wow this box is huge!" It's almost too big for everything it comes with and I have no earthly idea where this game will fit on my bookshelves. Because of this, it's just been sitting on our kitchen table until further notice. After opening up the actual box, I was met with some thick cardboard punch boards. All the components punched out smoothly with no issues and they feel great and sturdy. Other than that, there's some cards - curator, art dealer, and contracts - that weren't anything special, a ton of wooden meeples, and wooden gallerist pawns. All in all pretty standard for a well produced euro in my opinion.
Oh boy was this a mess. I think the issue is the game is too complicated for what it is and trying to find a streamlined way to teach the game via a rulebook is out of the question. What did it in for me, in particular, was that they start off with almost an overview of how the game plays without actually describing any of the actions in detail until later. There are a lot of pictures that mostly help, but the formatting of how everything is written and where it's located on the pages was super confusing for me. So confusing in fact that I decided to forgo learning the rules from the rulebook and instead watch the "Watch it Played" rules explanation by Rodney Smith. This went much smoother but by the end of the video I was feeling really overwhelmed and praying I would be able to teach the game to my fiance lol.
I really did appreciate the player aids. These are excellent at giving both brief step by step instructions/explanations of the different actions on one side and on the back side a glossary for a lot of the iconography shown throughout the game. About half way through, we actually were able to perform the actions of spaces without looking at the aids!
Once past the rules overhead, the game is actually quite simple. You more or less place your pawn on an action area and take one of two actions for that area. In addition, there are "executive actions" that you can optionally take before or after your turn. If a player ever places their pawn where your pawn or assistant is located, you may take a "knock-out action" after that player finishes their turn. I'm not about to rehash all the actions (sorry not sorry lol) but the main point of the game is to collect the most money primarily by buying and selling pieces of art, gaining influence, and gaining fame. Many of the actions have several step long instructions. A lot of "flip this then place this and move that then optionally do this secondary action." I'm not an expert of game design, but this felt complicated for the sake of being complicated. This was the first new (to me) heavy game in awhile that I've played and felt I didn't mess anything up which was a big relief and suprise.
Both myself and my fiance agreed that while there are a lot of end game scoring conditions to collect and attempt to fufill, the game lacks more immediate scoring. This makes it difficult to know how well you're doing, which I suppose could be a good thing as it would keep players more engaged in the game until the end. Speaking of the end, I felt it came up fairly quickly. We emptied the bag of visitors a lot faster than I thought we would. The tickets emptied fast as well and those two conditions combined ended the game for us. I won a fairly close game 104-94. It took us about 2 hours not including set up or the 35 min I spent watching the how to play video. That does include me teaching the game to her however.
The general theme of the game is of course owning a gallery and selling works of art for money. You're ultimately trying to build the most famous/prestigious art gallery. I know theming is supposed to be a big aspect of Lacerda's so I was really thinking I would feel like I was actually procuring and selling art to a bunch of snobby art dealers/collectors. While I think the theming is certainly heavier than other games I have played, I still think it fell short in giving me that sense. It would benefit to having some background for the different artists and maybe something like exclusivity bonuses. The game gives a benefit to the first player who "discovers" an artist, but beyond that there felt like there was no more reason to try and increase an artist's fame as it benefited all players who own/display their work.
It felt more like a brain burn than a game to me. After playing I just felt drained and ready for bed. That being said it was a long day leading up to that so that may not be just influenced by my play alone. I won't say I didn't enjoy the game because I really have an itch to play again to see what I can do to better optimize my action selections.
My fiance felt I had a better grasp of the game than she did despite her having more pieces of art both displayed and sold by the end of the game. I just think my focus was more on the influence track and international market whereas she was trying to fufill her art dealer and curator card bonuses. I will say the game was a lot closer than I thought it would have been. She maintains she would have won if she had a better understanding of the end game trigger conditions lol.
Overall I think the design overcomplicates what is a fairly simple worker placement game. The theming is just okay to me, but with a few changes could have been great (although most likely a lot more complicated). There's a definite puzzle aspect to the scoring system which I did enjoy despite using my full brain capacity to play lol. I will definitely be playing this again assuming my fiance will play with me. She did say afterwards that she'll give it another shot. Usually she needs a minimum of 2 plays to really get into something heavier. If I had to rate this game right now, I'd give it a 7/10.